Marriott Theatre's 75th anniversary 'Oklahoma!' a rousing revival

  • Curly (Brandon Springman) and Laurey (Jennie Sophia) contemplate "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

    Curly (Brandon Springman) and Laurey (Jennie Sophia) contemplate "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre

  • Will Parker (Aaron Umsted), atop wagon, gets the ensemble worked up over how everything is up to date in "Kansas City" in "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

    Will Parker (Aaron Umsted), atop wagon, gets the ensemble worked up over how everything is up to date in "Kansas City" in "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre

  • The ensemble sings the title song of the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

    The ensemble sings the title song of the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre

 
 
Updated 4/20/2018 10:20 AM

"Oklahoma!" - ★ ★ ★ ½

The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire last staged "Oklahoma!" 25 years ago to commemorate the musical's 50th birthday. Now Rodgers and Hammerstein's groundbreaking hit is back for its 75th anniversary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Yet this production is no duty-bound exercise in honoring a dusty classic. Rather, director Aaron Thielen and choreographer Alex Sanchez's rousing revival provides a foot-stomping reminder that "Oklahoma!" remains perennially as fresh as a daisy. And their willingness to tinker (with some judicious cutting in Act I) helps keep it that way.

From the start, Thielen and Sanchez put their own stamp on the material by illustrating the usually unstaged overture with pantomimed and danced back story. Maya Lou Hlava first appears as the orphaned heroine Laurey, arriving as a sad child into the care of her Aunt Eller (Susan Moniz). The farm girl soon grows up (Jennie Sophia is the mature Laurey), observing all of the excitement and randy couplings of homesteaders flooding into the Oklahoma Territory.

By the time the first lyrics of the immortal song "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" are sung offstage by the handsome cowboy Curly (Brandon Springman), the musical's world and tone are well established. Sophia's annoyed eye rolling is an amusing sign that Laurey and Curly have fought and flirted plenty before.

Jud Fry (Shea Coffman) sings in his "Lonely Room" in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Jud Fry (Shea Coffman) sings in his "Lonely Room" in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. - Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre
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"Oklahoma!" is a simple story of farm girls newly discovering the joys and risks of being pursued by amorous suitors. But Thielen and Sanchez ensure that life-or-death stakes lurk around the corner.

Sophia embodies the headstrong Laurey with a lovely soprano voice, all the while stubbornly resisting expectations that she's the predestined bride of the overconfident Curly. Yet her flirtation games turn dangerous, especially when she deploys the damaged Jud Fry (a gruff Shea Coffman) to make Curly jealous.

Coffman and Springman may not have the deep, operatic vocal heft that some longtime "Oklahoma!" fans expect from the show's leading men. But they're both solid actors.

Will Parker (Aaron Umsted), right, gets upset over gossip regarding his girlfriend, Ado Annie (Michelle Lauto), and the peddler Ali Hakim (Evan Tyrone Martin) in "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Will Parker (Aaron Umsted), right, gets upset over gossip regarding his girlfriend, Ado Annie (Michelle Lauto), and the peddler Ali Hakim (Evan Tyrone Martin) in "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. - Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The musical's secondary love triangle offers sparks and a bit of comic relief. As Ado Annie, Michelle Lauto plays an overeager flirt who "Cain't Say No," while Evan Tyrone Martin handles the comic timing of the "Persian" peddler Ali Hakim with skill. As the none-too-bright suitor Will Parker, Aaron Umstead proves to be a dynamic dancer and rope twirler.

Sanchez presents even more impressive dancing, ranging from the rip-roaring Act II opener "The Farmer and the Cowman" to the psychological drama of the "Out of my Dreams" ballet. The dream dance soloists of Benita Bünger as Laurey, Lucas Segovia as Curly and Alejandro Fonseca as Jud delight with their soaring athleticism and grace, even when they're weaving amid the creepiness of designer Jesse Klug's moody lighting, or the overly blonde dancers in pink (a compelling choice by costume designer Brian Hemesath to differentiate between the dream and real worlds).

Ado Annie (Michelle Lauto) gets a special goodbye from Ali Hakim (Evan Tyrone Martin) in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Ado Annie (Michelle Lauto) gets a special goodbye from Ali Hakim (Evan Tyrone Martin) in the 75th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. - Courtesy of Liz Lauren/Marriott Theatre

Using the Marriott's center-stage intimacy to their advantage, Thielen and Sanchez get to the emotional and comic heart of "Oklahoma!" The musical may be three-quarters-of-a-century old, but Marriott's marvelous staging shows that "Oklahoma!" will continue to endure.

• • •

Location: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847) 634-0200 or marriotttheatre.com

Showtimes: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday; through June 10

Running time: About 2 hours and 30 minutes with intermission

Tickets: $50-$60

Parking: Nearby free lots and valet service available

Rating: Some violence and acknowledgment of pornography, but largely for general audiences

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